December 09, 2014

Too much weather?

Update tonight (Wed) at 10:30 PM on new blog

BIG NEWS UPDATE at 10:15 AM Wednesday:  At 10 AM, Seattle-Tacoma Airport reported 65F, the WARMEST TEMPERATURE EVER OBSERVED AT SEA-TAC FOR THE MONTH OF DECEMBER.  I repeat this is the warmest temperature every reported for any day in December in the entire climatological record.  Amazing.  Undoubtedly true of other Northwest sites as well.

I had to laugh today when I saw the front page of  the National Weather Service's Seattle forecast office web site.
They had FOURTEEN watches, warnings, and advisories.

I have never seen so many.   Something out of a disaster movie or reminiscent of the plagues that hit Egypt before the Exodus.   High Winds!  Floods! Small Craft Advisory!  High Surf!  Gales! Storms! Rough Bars!  All that was missing were tornadoes, hurricanes, lice, and darkness.  Oh, I forgot, we have darkness living in Seattle during the winter.

But the extremes did not end there!   Many locations got above 60F today...some into the mid-60s (see below).  In western WA and OR in December!  Subtropical air was over us.

We have some major winds coming and ground zero should be the Oregon coast.  If you live there, get ready.  Secure supplies, flashlights, and keep away from potentially falling trees.  But it will be glorious for storm chasing. (I tried to convince some folks along the Washington coast (including the Mayor  of Westport) to start a storm museum and have storm gatherings there during the winter.  It could be a huge tourism magnet.  Filling the hotels, B & Bs and restaurants. They laughed at me.)

A trough will come through Wednesday AM, with wind gusts reaching 60-70 mph (see graphic for 10 AM Wednesday).  The whites and purples along the coast will be the danger zones. There is substantial confidence this is going to happen.

But what you are really interested in is the major coastal cyclone that has been advertised for Thursday.    This is a really interesting event for me.  Rarely do you see the major forecast models in such disagreement this close it to an event.

On one hand, there is the U.S. GFS model, which has been going for a big event for a few days.  The latest run tonight still has a powerful storm, but farther offshore, so a bit less threatening for Washington and particularly Puget Sound.

Here are the latest pressure forecasts from the  UW WRF model.  A 974 hPa low off of northern Oregon at 1 PM (21 UTC) Thursday.   LARGE PRESSURE GRADIENTS along the Oregon coast.

 Here are the associated winds gusts at that time.  BIG WINDS along the Oregon coast, gusting to 60-80 mph.  Seriously, the Oregon coast is going to get hit very hard if this is true.

By 7 PM, this fast-moving low reaches Vancouver Island, but has weakened to 981 hPa.  Very strong winds along the coast (gusting to 60-70 mph), but far less over Puget Sound.   Perhaps gusts to 40-50 mph here.

What about the nemesis of the National Weather Service GFS, the super-duper European Center Model driven by big computers and better data assimilation than used in the U.S.?  It has had much more benign solutions. BUT, it has now come much more into alignment with the U.S. model, although a bit weaker (see forecast for sea level pressure and relative humidity for 4 PM Thursday). Large pressure difference along the Oregon Coast.

Perhaps this is going to be a big win for the American team!  We will see soon enough.

This is a very difficult forecast.  Small storm, which has not even formed yet.  Substantial uncertainty. Amazing we can even attempt to make such forecasts.

But it is getting very clear that the Oregon coast is going to be ground zero for a major onslaught of wind.  Hurricane-force gusts.

And there are so many weather stories that I don't have time to discuss, like the extraordinarily heavy rain that is about to hit northern California.  A drought buster.


  1. If I won the Power Ball I would build that Storm Hotel like you want

    i too look forward to the day where I can up and run to the beach for the storm adventure.

  2. Westport doesn't know what they're missing for the storm chasing! You're on to something. Tofino in BC draws the crowds for the storms all winter.

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  4. All I know is I am going to be riding out the storm in one of those Rough Bars.

  5. Looking forward to your updates as this low bombs out...

  6. Yep. The Wickanninnish Inn and other lodgings in Tofino get a huge amount of business from storm chasers or people just interested in seeing the major weather and waves.

  7. I'm taking off tomorrow from SeaTac at 8:55 am. Will the wind situation have an impact on departures?

  8. It hit 66.5F here in Fauntleroy at 10.35a this morning. All of the West Seattle weather stations show temps at 66F plus or minus a half degree at that time. Amazingly warm. Now curious to see if the European model or NWS model is most accurate for tomorrow's storm.

  9. The western regional home page was impressive as well. I think that they had to downsize the font to fit in all the warnings and advisories.

  10. Cliff,

    wow! So exciting to be watching this develop!

    And as if gusts of 60-80 mph weren't dreadful enough, the UW WRF gust chart is actually showing knots rather than mph!

  11. Here in Olympia I'm sitting at my desk: If I look out to the west across Budd Inlet I see dark, low clouds; but, if I look out the east window, the sky is bright, the ceiling much higher, and no precip.

    If I look at my computer screen, which is showing the UW NW Radar Loop, there's a tiny opening holding stationary just east of Olympia.

    Even though the visible clouds are moving by fast from the SSW, this little "rain shadow" has held pretty much constant for the past 15 min!

    Another strange anecdote from this "storm". I should be out planting the tulip bulbs that arrived today.

  12. 65 degrees in West Seattle where the wind is darn near unobstructed at 10:30 AM. Amazing.

    Always anxious to hear your take on the weather, Cliff. Some exciting times presently...

    Love the rain in Northern California...


  13. I actually said to my wife tonight, look honey, I want to sit down and talk, but first I have to see what Cliff Mass has to say about the upcoming weather. She gave me one of those weird looks that you get after 25 years of marriage. Thanks for making it worth the heavy sigh.

  14. Here's your tornadoes:

  15. I really don't understand Seattleites' complaints about the length of the day in winter here when they say "living in Seattle in winter, it's plenty dark." Seattle is not even close to unique or unusual with lack of winter daylight hours. Today the sun is setting 6 minutes earlier in Boston (4:12 vs. 4:18), 11 minutes later in NYC (4:29), and 28 minutes later in DC. Yes the sun rises a bit earlier over there because they're further east in their time zone, but it's not like your average Seattleite is driving to work in the pitch dark, like in Alaska.

    In winter, after DST ends, your average 9-5 worker sees daylight on his/her way to work, and comes home after dark, EVERYWHERE in the major mid-Atlantic, Midwest, Northeast, and Northwest cities. Even true in Denver.

    On the other hand, we get to enjoy later sunsets for half the year, MUCH later in summer, when the daylight is piling up after work when most people are free to make us of it, plus we also benefit from mild temps and no mosquitoes (in DC I'd pray for the sun to just go down already so the heat could fade enough to take a run without suffering heat stroke). Yet I hear the "short winter days" complaint a heck of a lot more than the long summer days brag.


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